The new film, “The Well-Digger’s Daughter,” is a breath of fresh air. Not a single super hero, explosion, CGI or murder inhabit this lovely piece of French filmmaking. The gifted actor Daniel Auteuil, in his first excursion as a director and writer, has woven an engaging tapestry of storytelling framed by the breathtaking charm of Provence, France.
Auteuil stars as Pascale, the widowed well-digger and father to six daughters, in pre-World War I France. Pascale’s eldest beloved daughter, Patricia (the gorgeous Astrid Bergès-Frisbey), is seduced by Jacques Mazel (a bland Nicholas Duvauchelle), a pilot whose parents are the wealthiest family in the region. She gets pregnant, he’s called to duty and then goes missing in action.
Blindsided and wounded, Pascale confronts Jacques’ parents with Patricia’s dilemma. Not wanting to contaminate their gene pool, they erroneously and rudely dismiss Patricia as a gold digger. To avoid shame, Pascale ships his daughter off to live with an aunt who’s also a fallen woman.
When Pascale is persuaded by his assistant (a wonderful Kad Merad) to visit Patricia and his new grandson, he has a change of heart. He invites her back home where the Mazels are also experiencing a shift in feelings when they find out Jacques is reported dead.
Stunning, sun-drenched cinematography, a soaring score and Auteuil’s standout performance are just three of many reasons to catch “The Well-Digger’s Daughter.” The audience is transported back to a simpler time when morality played a huge role in people’s lives. Owning a motorbike or an automobile was a big deal. Old-fashioned suddenly seems so capriciously captivating when watching this beautiful film.
“The Well-Digger’s Daughter” is a tale about ordinary people who become extraordinary when they do the right thing. As Auteuil observes: “It’s a magnificent story of love, tenderness, sorrow and forgiveness.” Let’s face it; there aren’t many of those in movie theaters these days.
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